Virtual Snack provides real drinks and real conversation from charismatic bartenders who don’t really exist.

In Japan, a “snack bar” isn’t a counter dishing out French fries and hot dogs at a stadium or amusement park. Japanese snack bars are bars, as in places to go drinking, that also serve light fare and assorted munchies.

Snack bars got their start as a way to exploit a loophole in Japanese laws, which used to force places that only served alcohol to shut down several hours earlier than restaurants that served both alcohol and food (even if no one was actually ordering very much food). But what keeps successful snack bars going isn’t the cuisine they provide, but the company. Snack bars are usually compact, cozy places, and a big draw for customers is conversation with a the affable, clever, or simply world-wise owner or manager, who, if she’s a woman, is referred to as “Mama.”

As of August 24, there’s a new snack bar opening in Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood, but there’s something different about its mama: she’s an anime girl-style virtual YouTuber!

But wait, how does a virtual entity, who has no physical form, run a bar? Through the help of Tokyo technology developer Balus. For the most part, Virtual Snack looks like a typical snack bar, but there’s a monitor on the counter equipped with a camera and microphone, so that you and the mama, such as above-picture alcohol-loving virtual YouTuber Matsuri Kazamiya, can talk with each other in real-time. Meanwhile, human staff will discretely prepare and serve any drinks or food you order.

▼ A customer visits Virtual Snack

Actually, Matsuri is one member of a roster of mamas who take turns running the bar. Depending on what time you go, you could also be knocking back a few stiff drinks while talking with ninja girl Ruri Asano

…demon world devil school nurse Choco Yuzuki, visitor from an alternate world half-elf Aki Rosenthal

…video game news website Inside mascot Inside-chan Mark2, idol cat girl Chikuwa

…male option Fukuya Master, or “successfully cultivated fluffy organism” Mimitaro.

Virtual Snack occupies space inside a different snack bar, and so it’s only open on every other Saturday, starting August 24. Two mamas are on shift each day, the first from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., and the second from 3:30 to 5:30 (a full schedule can be found on the bar’s official website here).

To go along with its unique concept, Virtual Snack has a unique pricing system. Customers buy an entrance ticket for 4,800 yen (US$44) which gets them a seat for two hours plus two drinks, either alcoholic or soft drink. Additional drinks can be purchased for an additional fee if customers are still thirsty, and you can also treat the mama on duty to a drink of her or his own for 2,000 yen, which also includes some sort of special prize to take home with you.

Virtual Snack is currently scheduled to operate until November 23, and contact details can be found on its official website here.

Bar details
Virtual Snack / バーチャルスナック
Venue: Snack Judo / スナック十°
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-5-26, Lape 2 Building 5th floor
東京都中央区銀座8丁目5−26 ラペ2ビル5階

Sources: PR Times, Hachima Kiko
Images: PR Times
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If you don’t want to drink alone, you can always drink in the company of Casey’s Twitter musings.